Artemis I Mission confronts tropical storm

The launch of the Artemis I mission has been postponed again. This time, due to tropical storm Ian, experts are studying the situation in the hope that the rocket will not have to be rolled back into the Vehicle Assembly Building and the possibility of its launch on October 2 will remain.

The SLS rocket is at launch. Source: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

Bad weather prevents Artemis I launch

Last week, NASA specialists conducted a successful test of the SLS rocket refueling system and were preparing to launch the month-long Artemis I mission this Tuesday, September 27. However, as meteorologists feared, the weather changed for the worse. 

Tropical storm Ian is moving to Florida from the Caribbean Sea. And already on September 24, it became clear that the launch on September 27, as well as most days of this week, was excluded. Experts constantly confirm that the safety of people and rockets are their main goal.

But as of September 24, it was decided to leave the rocket at launch complex 39B for now and not roll it into the Vehicle Assembly Building. NASA says that they will be guided by the security protocols of their organization, but will try to delay the decision to take the SLS to a safe place in order to preserve the possibility of launching on October 2.

It was expected that the program managers would meet on the evening of September 25 to make a final decision. However, it has not yet been adopted. It is known that storm Ian slowed down a little and deviated to the west of the coast of Florida. Meteorologists are watching it and on the evening of September 26, the leaders of the Artemis I mission should meet again and consider whether to leave the rocket on the launch pad or not.

Why is it so difficult to make a decision?

It is worth noting that the wind speed inside the storm Ian now reaches 137 km/h. And the SLS rocket has a height of 98 m and costs a million dollars. So no one will risk it excessively. And the process of bringing it to the Vehicle Assembly Building takes almost a whole day. Therefore, it will not be possible to remove it from the launch complex at the last moment. This should be done as planned.

On the other hand, the attention of the whole world is now focused on the Artemis I mission. Its successful completion will determine the timing of the second and third missions, during which people should return to the Moon after a break of several decades. And China’s plans to get there first do not contribute to the peace of NASA.

However, the launch of SLS is possible only during the start window, which is open for a little more than a week. And installing a rocket on the launch pad requires no less time than installing it there. A delay of several days easily turns into postponing the launch for a month.

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